Stickman's Weekly Column June 1st, 2008

Khun Saharat’s Budget


Khun Saharat's Budget

It was around 9 PM and we were dining in a small Isaan food restaurant, deep in a soi somewhere in Saphan Mai. The soi was poorly lit with the only light coming from shops, many of which were beginning to close. Overhead the sounds of aircraft could be heard every few minutes reminding us that Don Meuang is still in operation.

It was a student-dominated neighbourhood and university students – about 80% of them female – dawdled up and down the soi, sometimes stopping at one of the budget food vendors in the neighbourhood. I was dining with a lovely I’d met earlier that day.

He stood out as he drifted along the soi, lacking the grace of movement of the Thais. He was wrapped in old, tatty clothes and looked totally out of place. In all the time I spent in that neighbourhood, he was the only non-Thai I saw. I averted my eyes and looked the other way when I realised that after spotting me he made a beeline for the little eatery where my date and I were relaxing. This guy had a story to tell, but I wasn’t in the mood to hear it.

To my horror he parked up at the table right next to us and fired off “Do you speak English?” in a distinctly American accent.

Couldn’t he see that I was engrossed with my date? Couldn’t he see that we were whispering sweet nothings to each other, enjoying the moment. This intrusion was as distracting as a streaker at the Superbowl – but no-one was cheering.

And you know what? I hate foreigners asking me that question. I mean, how many whiteys in Bangkok don’t speak English? Even the Ruskies speak English these days. And frankly, the way he asked it just rubbed me up the wrong way. Was he inferring that perhaps I couldn't speak English? Should I reply to him in German and plead ignorance? Or should I say something profound like "No, I don't speak it."

“I speak the Queen’s English perfectly well” I responded in a haughty attempt at an upper class British accent, one that would have made British gentry cringe.

“So you’re a Brit” he said, making it sound as if that was little different from being a paedophile.

“Something like that” I responded. Hey, Dad was a Brit, once upon a time at least, and my accent is so neutral that damn it, I’ll make him think that. Besides, this guy is not someone I want to reveal much about myself to.

“Man, why did you order so much food” he asked, thankfully stopping short of asking if he could join us, or God forbid, actually start helping himself.

“That’s not much food and besides, we want to try a little bit of everything”, I said.

“Dude, that’ll be over 200 baht. You can get fried rice over there (now pointing at the shop opposite) for 20 baht.”

Ah, so the appearance was not deceiving. Khun Saharat (that would be "Mr. America" in English) was down on his luck and his finances were low.

He asked me if I lived in the area. No. He asked me what I was doing in the area. Eating. And he asked me what my job was. Teacher.

So was he, he told me. Oh no!

With a common bond found, this social misfit completely oblivious to the fact that I was in the company of a young lady starts telling me about his life. American, 44 years old and teaching part-time in no name or bad name language mills around the city. He’d settled into this particular neighbourhood because it was cheap. Not inexpensive. Cheap. He later discovered that the soi was home to a business school and not much more than a stone's throw from a couple of universities so there was no shortage of pretty young things living in the area and coming and going at all hours.

I grunted at his comments and showed utter indifference, quietly wishing he would disappear.

All things considered, my date was particularly forgiving. Sometimes the Thais' politeness gets the better of them. As we nibbled our way through the various dishes, Khun Saharat, whose real name I never did get, told us more about his life. The way he went on, anyone sitting nearby would have thought we were mates.

He worked 6 or 7 days a week, just a few hours a day, and made a little bit over 20,000 baht a month. Everything he talked about seemed to revolve around money. How much it cost. How much he earned. How much he spent. But unlike many of his fellow countrymen he didn't have a lot of money, something I found kind of strange. I mean, when you see down and out foreigners in Thailand, how often is it an American? Not often. Americans seem to have more money and / or be better at managing their money than others.

Fixated on his living costs, he told me that he made 20,000 – 22,000 baht a month. His apartment including power and phone was 5,000 a month, expensive for the neighbourhood. Transportation – he only used buses and motorbikes to get to the main road, ran 2,000 – 3,000 baht per month, leaving him with 12,000 or 13,000 baht per month to live on. That was it.

I offered him a few hints for better employment, schools that would take on anyone but which may pay a little bit better than the sweatshops he was working for. No, he was content with his current schedule, even if it meant up to four hours on buses some days.

It was getting late and it was time for me to bid him farewell. He asked me where I was going. Home, I replied. After telling him where that was, he asked me how I would travel there. Taxi, I said.

“But that’ll be almost 300 baht if you take the expressway!” The look on his face that someone would choose to spend 300 baht on a journey when a motorcycle, two buses and another motorcycle could do it for 60 baht (and about another 2 hours on the journey time).

Finally he seemed to sense that his presence was an intrusion and made a comment that he didn't mean to interrupt us. He slinked off into the soi and was gone.

It took me back to my first few months in Bangkok and my first month's salary, taking home a meagre 19,000 baht a month. Fortunately within a few months I was earning over 30K which in pre-Starbucks Bangkok was enough. Being the type who never likes to spend more than he earns, the first couple of months were tight and I distinctly remember waiting for a non air-conditioned bus at 3.5 baht when I could have got on one of the blue air-con variety for 6 baht. Waiting in the heat and suffering an uncomfortable ride, all for 2.5 baht. What was I thinking?!

Cereal in the morning followed by a food hall for lunch and street food for dinner is again something I just couldn't do now. I'd read the communal copy of the Bangkok Post in the lobby of the condo as opposed to buying my own and would sometimes think twice about buying a 10 baht portion of pineapple. I didn’t go out a lot and didn’t drink much so there was little in the way of entertainment costs. Wandering around taking photographs was fun enough and the nightlife just didn't interest me. In the early days it was fun enough, but there is no way I could live like that now.

The truth is you don’t need a lot of money to have fun and interesting experiences in Bangkok. A limited budget may actually open up the possibility of the sort of experiences that big spenders won’t get. You hang out in a different environment with different people. It really is a different world. You also really begin to understand the common Thais more, and have a much better idea of the choices they make, and why.

I wondered about Khun Saharat. Did he lead a mundane life or was he genuinely content? I couldn't tell. Would he sit in his small studio apartment staring at the walls?

I lived the poor life in Bangkok once. I was a new boy on the block and I was a young man. Everything was new, exciting, serendipitous. It didn’t matter that it was 25 baht for food that was cooked in, prepared in and eaten in a heavily polluted area, right next to a busy road. Everything was new and fun.

But those days are long gone. I’m 10 years older and crave the comforts of a farang lifestyle. A Western lifestyle. It doesn’t matter that I live in Thailand, the creature comforts I associate with being farang are a necessity.

If I want a cup of coffee at Starbucks, I’ll buy it and not think twice about it. 150 baht? Here you go!

I haven’t used a bus in 6 or 7 years and I wouldn’t think twice about getting a sandwich at the likes of Au Bon Pain or Subway. I know that it's 4 times the price of a plate of rice but that isn't part of the decision making process.

Do the maths. Consuming that coffee and sandwich and taking a couple of taxi rides each day – which is quite plausible – and you’ve hit 400 baht, Khun Saharat’s daily budget.

We’re not talking luxuries here, just the basics of a modern Western lifestyle. If I can’t live that lifestyle, or more succinctly, if I can’t finance a lifestyle like that, I would leave.

There are many Westerners living in Thailand on not a lot of cash. Teachers. Retirees. Alternative lifestyles.

I bet there are thousands who spend around the 20,000 baht per month mark. That's 20k a month, all up.

To those guys who can happily live on that amount, I admire you and am envious. I just can’t do it any more. I really can’t. I mean, if you think that buying a coffee or a sandwich is an extravagance and decide not to because it breaks you budget, is that really living?

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of a mor-doo, that is a fortune teller. This fellow can be found on the Beach Road in Pattaya opposite Soi 6, pretty much every day. He is a fixture on Beach Road and I am surprised that so few readers got it right! This week's picture is back in Bangkok – and much easier than the past two weeks. The first person to email me with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British Fish And Chips restaurant. The second person to get it right wins a free jug of margarita, valued at 840 baht from Charley Brown's, a popular Tex-Mex restaurant, offering authentic cuisine and delicious margaritas. Charley Brown's is located in the small sub-soi off Sukhumvit Soi 11.

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Charley Brown's prize MUST be claimed within 7 days. Prizes are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per month.

FROM STICK MARK II'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick Mark II.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Do men become expendable?

I agree with you that family is closer than husband MAYBE. It depends on where the likely financial and emotional support is coming from in the future. Just as Thai parents may love the children they have who provide financial support for them over those who do not. I would point out for your consideration too that my experience with women in all cultures is the following. Men love women and women love children. That is the way of things. Women do love men but in a temporary and expendable way. Temporary could last a lifetime as long as you are useful but women lack the depth of love than men may (but sometimes lack) have for a woman. You can see this at break up time where the man may take care of the woman in the future even though he has no personal gain from this. Women simply don't do this with rare exception. As soon as a woman sees no personal gain from a man, he is discarded. Women are much more calculating yet vastly more emotional about relationships than men. Their emotion does not concern the man. It concerns their loss of the man and how it affects them.

Wear the trousers and control the purse strings.

In response to your article on a Thai girl's interpretation of love being related to money and possessions, well I have to refute some of the findings if only to caveat it to say that it depends on the girl you meet and more importantly on the type of bloke involved. Here in the Thai communities where I live, I have seen two very distinct camps emerge. One that involves switched on guys and one that involves complete idiots. The switched on guys control the money. They put their house in their own name, they don't invest in anything that they cannot control and more importantly they have very clear embarkation lines between salary in and salary out and who controls it. What's more they don't allow themselves to be bullied into supporting the family back home either. These guys and their Thai partner know the boundaries of the relationship and funnily enough they all seem to have a decent standard of living, own a decent middle class home, drive a high spec car as well as enjoying the best kind of relationship without any obvious screaming matches going on. These guys have a plan and stick to it and in the long run the wife, her family and everyone concerned are better off for it. The idiots on the other hand are the complete opposite. They all have (bar none) bought a house / condo in their Thai wife's name in Thailand, they all own a car / pick up truck / motosai which her family get to look after while he is back in the West, they all actively 'share' their salary bank accounts with their teeruk and they also send a stipend home to the wife's parents / buffalo / soi dog. These guys all seem to live in a 'rented' two up two down in a crap part of town and drive a motor that has seen better days. Their quality of life is on the low end and they seem to spend half their time sitting in pubs and smoking while the lady sits at home looking after the little one, running an Ebay business and doing car boot sales whilst getting the 'dinner on' for the old man. What's more, their life is constantly one of screaming and howling and the reason they are all back here is because they have all been forced back to the West. Their life has only one plan: To earn more money and to go back and plough it back into Thailand in order to support their extended family and perceived lifestyle that lasts two years at a stretch until they come back again to start all over again. It's a vicious circle with these guys. Bottom line: Give the Thai woman a good lifestyle whilst keeping a tight control on the spending and decision making and she will be happy. However, if you let the Thai woman rule the roost, before you know it your wallet will be emptier than a fat bald man's scrotum after a night in Nana.

Love = money.

Before I got sick, I started seeing this 30 year old recently divorced woman who worked as a nurse's aide at a rural hospital in Korat province. She had no children. After I become ill, she was very good about visiting me in the hospital. I paid for all of her bus tickets and hotel expenses when she visited me at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok. I also compensated her for the time she took off from her job. Despite this, she kept asking me for more money after I was discharged from the hospital. 1000 baht here and 2000 baht there. What the heck? It was only money and I was a rich farang, of course. Eventually, she said if I wanted her to be my "girlfriend" I would have to pay her a monthly allowance. What the #@*$?! Oh, and if I wanted to marry her that would be another 600,000 baht. She obviously thought I was another stupid farang. Thailand has plenty of dumb farang men these days throwing away ridiculous amounts of money on poorly educated women from rural areas. I asked her why she wanted so much money. She said if I loved her, I would give her that much money. Love?! Whatever feelings I might have had for her quickly evaporated at that point. I tried to point out that love and money aren't the same. She just said that in Thailand a man shows his love for a woman by giving her money or buying her expensive things. We had obviously reached an irreconcilable impasse. She thought I should show my love for her by giving her more money. I thought she just wanted to take advantage of me.

Hated the weekly!

Your intro on love makes me wonder what you were on when you wrote it! First and foremost it is paramount to love one's money first, and if there's any love left over it can be devoted to the Thai girls. When a husband leaves his wife here he is not so much denying her of his love but her life support system. Love does not conquer all but extracts all. Love is a means to an end, and as long as the means justifies the end then it can be defied as love in Thailand.

Loved the weekly!

Your weekly about the Thai concept of love is absolutely excellent. Indeed, it would serve a useful purpose if translated into Thai, because most Thai women are not aware that farangs actually can have this kind of insight about the overwhelming priorities given to the Thai extended family. According to Thai family protocol any ever so distant relative outranks a farang husband, even in matters regarding the upbringing of his own children! Also your description of the cascading financial demands directed towards the farang husband is painfully accurate, not least in the sense that these limitless expectations of financial rewards tend to unbalance the relationship between wife and husband.

A number of folks are excited about the return of the Big Mango bar to Soi Nana this week. The bar will re-open on Tuesday 3rd June at 4:00 PM, though it should be noted that their normal hours of business will be 10:00 AM – late. The kitchen won't be open yet but expect to be able to order food in a few weeks. The owners promise aggressive pricing – now that's music to my ears – and you should note that there has been something of a theme change. The Big Mango will now be…..drum roll…..a freelancer venue! And just in case you think there's still no reason to make it along, stick men should note that the pool tables are free for the first month. See you there!

I have not been easy on the Deja Vu group of bars (Deja Vu, Midnite, Our Place, Cowboy 2, Spice Girls) as it is well-known and the owner has taken exception to some of my comments about his bars, some of which have not been entirely favourable. My biggest gripe is that I feel the prices charged in his bars are steep compared to other bars, and with lady drinks at 150 / 170 baht, they are just too expensive (especially when you consider you might get no more than a minute or two of the fine lady's company. In other bars, such as Tilac, a lady drink may cost as little as 100 baht). It should be noted that I have said favourable things about Spice Girls which I think is a genuinely fun bar with a nice concept, Our Place which I am fond of as well as the effort that has gone into the appearance of all of his bars. He has exercised his right of reply and his response to my comments is included here, with absolutely no editing by me in any shape or form:
"I am the ower of the Deja Vu and other 5 Bars in group. Regarding the lady drink I would like to mention many bars in soi cowboy and others keep cost down many ways to this:
1: serve water or mixture of water and TQ as lady drink to sell at lower cost.
2: no pay authorities with money.
3: sell copy drinks
4: Buy illegal duty free drinks
5: no upgrade and renevation in bar.
6: no continues repairs in Bar"

In fairness to him, I checked out two of his bars this past week and both Our Place and Deja Vu had an attractive collection of dancers and a fun vibe. I note that there are signs in his bars advertising Salito's Tequila beer which is advertised as a German-brewed lager style beer that is Tequila flavoured. No, I wasn't game to try it and with a price approaching 200 baht a bottle ended any thoughts of giving it a try.

Tricky Ricky, the popular bar manager, can now be found in charge of proceedings at Baby Dolls A Gogo in Soi 15 off Walking Street. All friends, new and old, are invited to come along and check out Ricky's new play pen.

As Ricky takes over the reins at Baby Dolls, that club’s Mamasan Miki has moved over to the Windmill Club, where Bill has taken over as manager. The Soi Diamond gogo bar recently was upgraed with new laser lighting as well as a Jacuzzi and soapy mattress stage. (I guess they are trying to entice you back, Barry!)

Angelwitch in Bangkok has a decent line up at this point in time with some of the finest eye candy in Nana.

It's amazing how a bar can turn around so fast, but in the case of Raw Hide, I hate to say that the deterioration is almost complete. Dancing girls have disappeared and customers are way down. A month ago it was great but today it's a shadow of its former self.

On the subject of Raw Hide, its sister bar, Long Gun, also increased prices at the same time Rah Hide did, a week or two back.

I've talked up Gulliver's on Sukhumvit Soi 5 recently. It's a fun spot with lots of interesting characters in attendance, especially in the evenings. That said, Gulliver's closes awfully early. While at this point in time most night spots in the Nana area turn off the lights and music at 2:00 AM, Gulliver's flicks on the house lights and turns off the sounds at 12:40 and the staff ask customers to move outside before 12:45. Closing at that hour the fun is curtailed.

As was mentioned would happen in this column many months ago, Subway at Nana has now gone due to the exorbitant rent increase the landlords asked for. There are other Subway branches on Sukhumvit including the nearby branch at Soi 7/1.

It is sometimes said that the least attractive ladies are those who make themselves available to farangs. Don't believe it for a moment. If you really want to know where the least attractive ladies can be found – and I have no idea why you would want to know – go for a wander around Little Arabia, the area around Sukhumvit sois 3 and 5. Nor the prettiest girls on the block in that part of town!

Pattaya City News is no more. Arguably Fun Town’s finest TV news show – if one overlooks the plethora of stacked commercials, the six-year-old PCN reportedly was the victim of its Thai and farang partners not seeing eye to eye on operations. But news junkies need not fret. Howard Miller, the British co-owner of PCN, already has formed a brand new partnership with Sophon – every expat’s favorite cable company. Beginning tomorrow (June 2), the new Pattaya One News is scheduled to air five times daily on channels 4 and 5. Miller says his new partnership also calls for the launching of a 24-hour-a-day English language channel beginning sometime in the next two months. To be called the Pattaya One Channel, Miller promises to present news, features, movies and entertainment catering to the needs and demands of the expat community.

While Bangkok has been subjected to frequent rains in recent weeks, Pattaya remains sunny. But those tanning rays fail to attract crowds of tourists. Night spots are particularly in the doldrums – even those venues that are habitually packed.

The number of punters has been declining since the departure of most of the young military men who were in the area for Cobra Gold exercises last month. Some of the American troops remain in the area supporting or participating in relief efforts in Burma (Myanmar).

Call me price sensitive, call me Cheap Charlie, or downright insult me and call me kee-neeow (I HATE that term), but with all of that said, I am saddened to hear that Thomas, owner of Down Under Bar in Sukhumvit Soi 23, a venue I talked up – particularly for the food – is looking at increasing the food prices AGAIN. I went from dining their once a week, to once a month…and now, well, if prices go up again, that's it, I'm done with it.

Speaking of being cheap, as of today, that is Sunday, June 1, the price of shooting a rabbit or collecting flowers in the public toilets in MBK will be up to 2 baht, from 1 baht before.

One could be forgiven for thinking that it was no longer in business, but Wong's in Soi Sribumphen is still open for business with the opening time 10 PM. The usual clientele sees some Japanese, some journalists as well as some Westerners, no doubt those staying in the budget accommodation neighbourhood which predates Khao San Road. At Wong's you can enjoy the concept of a beer fridge – take a beer, drink it, take a beer, drink it and so on. Wong will count the bottles when you're done and you can settle the bill when it is time to leave. There is zero hassle. The original Wong established the bar in 1988 and the venue has picked up a cult following, especially for the number of music videos the bar has on VHS tapes, a collection which has now been supplemented by DVD. The walls are covered in photos (and a water colour) of previous customers and there is now a pool table on the first floor.

The famous apache girl sitting above what was Apache and is now known as Coyotes – but which up until this week STILL had a sign calling it Apache Bar – has gone. Now you see her, now you don't!

There is a young lady working at Lolita’s who has a most apt nickname, “Cream”. I kid you not!

Local internet access can be erratic from time to time and there seems to be major problems caching at the biggest local ISP. From time to time you may try to go to a particular website, a site to which you are a frequent visitor and member, and find yourself logged in as someone else. For example, I might try to login to PattayaBigBoobs.Com as Stickman but when I get there I am logged in under a different username. This is a VERY difficult problem to get around as it appears to be a caching problem at the ISP. Could be a little perturbing if you do any banking online…or alternatively, it could be a real boost to your retirement plans!

Jack’s Golf is expanding with plans to start a new visa run service in the already congested Pattaya market. Jack's Golf has built up an excellent reputation in Bangkok and is generally regarded as the premier visa run service provider. Their entry into the Pattaya market should be welcomed by the locals.

Despite all of the price increases we have suffered over the past few years, I note that the price of a can of Coke has not moved. It was 13 baht a can when I first moved here and is still 13 baht today.

It's not anywhere enough to be termed a trend as such, but in the past week two friends have decided to leave Bangkok. Are they returning to their respective corners of Farangland? Not at all. These two guys, who do not know each other, have each decided to relocate to Chiang Mai. They are not lured by a local lass nor a need to find a more affordable locale to reside. Each just figured that they have had enough of Bangkok, and interestingly, enough of Bangkok's Western population!

Are there more homosexuals in Thailand – as a percentage – than there are in other countries? Are there more katoeys? They are certainly more visible, that's for sure. And if there are more, just why is it? A friend put it to me recently that a number of respectable Thais had told him that 25% of the local populace were either homosexual or katoeys, a figure I disputed as way too high. That's not to say there aren't a lot of them, but I would not have put that number that high. But there do seem to be more. Why is that?

Quote of the week comes from 90% of bar owners. "Oh, if you had been here 20 minutes ago the place was pumping, totally packed" – or words to that effect! Why oh why do some bar owners have to insist that their bar was so much busier just a little earlier in the night and that once again, you just missed it?!

There seems to be a trick at the Immigration Department in avoiding long waits and long queues. Go there towards the end of the day. Never ever go on a Monday, and it's probably also best to avoid Fridays. Immigration is open until 4:30 PM and it would appear the best time to venture there is the hour before closing. The Immigration Department is reluctant to hold passports overnight so even someone entering at 4:15 should get whatever they need done that day, without the need to wait too long.

Keep a keen eye on Vietnam. The dong, that's the country's currency and not a gentleman's appendage, is starting to slide. It fell big time this week amid conjecture that what happened to the baht in 1997 could happen to the dong this year. If that was to indeed happen, would there be any fall out here in Thailand? I don't know enough about Vietnam's position, economically speaking, in the region, but nothing would surprise me. More here.

The excellent MapJack site which provides viewers with a walk around of Sin City has been featured in this article of interest in Sydney's Morning Herald. The Age then followed up the original article with this report.

The CNN website featured Father Joe Maier this week.

Is another coup just around the corner? This from the BBC.

Ask Mrs. Stick

After being precariously close to ending up on the scrap heap, readers have resumed sending in questions for Mrs. Stick. She is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you. She *needs* your questions if her section of the column is to remain!

Question 1: I notice that Mr. Stick seems to be able to visit the bars on regular occasions. My problem is, that either here in Oz or when in Thailand, my wife makes a huge fuss when I want to go out for a drink with my mates (I admit it doesn't help that they're single). I'm not sure if it's a cultural thing but with Farang women it doesn't seem to be such an issue. She's not from the bar industry. I'm 46 and she's 39 so we're not young. We've been married 3 years and intend to move to Thailand later in the year and I can see it causing problems. I can understand if she feels threatened due to the male to female ratio here etc. and I haven't given her a reason to worry but she does. I assume she tries to save a bit of face and not admit to being jealous and says things like "not good for the family if I'm seen in girl bars etc". She can't understand that sometimes I just want to go out with a mate to watch the footy or have a game of pool. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Mrs. Stick says: No Thai lady likes her husband visiting those bars. This is the honest truth. Actually I didn't like it at all, especially when it happened regularly but I got used to it. He was going there before we met and even though he didn't tell me about it for a long time, I know he was going out to meet friends and to do things for his website. He also let me go out whenever I wanted and I did go a few times to meet him there. But actually, I don't like those places. We agreed a long time ago that if I ever wanted to go out and see him I could and he would tell me where he was and wait for me. So we had a system that was about trust. But I didn't like it at all and actually I think it is wrong for a married man to go to those places often. Why not go to The Londoner or Irish Xchange <now Molly Malone's – Stick > which I think are better places to meet your friends.

Question 2: I am a French guy so my English is not so good but I would like to know something. I would like to know what Mrs. Stick thinks about Thai ladies who have a tattoo and / or smoke and / or drink alcohol often and who do not work in bars, clubs, massage….because for me, it is not normal for a good lady.

Mrs. Stick says: I think many Thai women drink alcohol these days and it is not so unusual. Many do not but I think drinking alcohol is not so bad. I don't know anyone with a tattoo and none of my friends would ever have one. I think they are cheap. I have some friends who smoke when they go out but most of my friends never tried a cigarette in their life. I think for normal Thai women tattoos and smoking are quite unusual. I think alcohol is common and a lot of women drink socially nowadays.

Is it just me who has noticed that there seems to be heightened annoyance, agitation and generally less tolerance with the Thais these days? As I go for my daily stroll around the neighbourhood I more and more notice Thais arguing, and often quite heatedly. It might be nothing, but my feeling is that the locals seem to be a little less content about life now than they were not so long ago. Is the increased cost of living to blame?



Your Bangkok commentator,
A decent enough column with solid opening piece. 7/10
Stick